« PreviousContinue »
“ But what, my friend, what hopes remain for me, " Who start at theft, and blush at perjury? " Who scarce forbear, tho' Britain's court he sing, “ To pluck a titled poet's borrow'd wing; “ A statesman's logic unconvinc'd can hear, " And dare to slumber o'er the Gazetteer ;
Despise a fool in half his pension drest, * And strive in vain to laugh at Hy's jest.
“ Others with softer smiles, and subtler art, “ Can sap the principles, or taint the heart; “ With more address a lover's note convey, “ Or bribe a virgin's innocence away. “ Well may they rise, while I, whose rustic tongue “ Ne'er knew to puzzle right, or varnish wrong,
Spurn'd as a beggar, dreaded as a spy, “ Live unregarded, unlamented die."
“ The cheated nation's happy fav'rites see! “ Mark whom the great caress, who frown on me! “ London! the needy villain's general home, “ The common-sewer of Paris and of Rome; “ With eager thirst, by folly or by fate, " Sucks in the dregs of each corrupted state.
Forgive my transports on a theme like this, “I cannot bear a French metropolis."
By numbers here from shame or censure free, “ All crimes are safe, but hated poverty. “ This, only this, the rigid law pursues, “ This, only this, provokes the snarling muse. 6 The sober trader at a tatter'd cloak, " Wakes from his dream, and labours for a joke ; " With brisker air the silken courtiers gaze, " And turn the varied taunt a thousand ways.
“Of all the griefs that harass the distress'd, “ Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest : “Fate never wounds more deep the gen'rous heart, “ Than when a blockhead's insult points the dart. - « Has heav'n reserv'd, in pity to the poor, “ No pathless waste, or undiscover'd shore? “ No secret island on the boundless main ? "No peaceful desart yet unclaim'd by Spain ? " Quick let us rise, the happy seats explore, “ And bear oppression's insolence no more."
Prepare for death, if here at night you roam, “And sign your will before you sup from home.
“Some fiery fop, with new commission vain,
“ Yet ev'n these heroes, mischievously gay,
“ A single jail, in Alfred's golden reign,
“ Much could I add but see the boat at hand,
“Thy satire point, and animate thy page." Of this kind of satire the most perfect specimens in our language are Mr. Pope's prologue and epilogue to his satires. The first, the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, is evidently, as Dr. Johnson observes, made up of scraps, (but they are choice ones) connected together as loosely as many of Horace's. To particularize the excellent touches of satire which this poem contains, would be almost to transcribe the whole. Dr. Johnson remarks, that the weakest part is the lines on Sporus. The epilogue, which consists of two dialogues, is more regular, but has hardly equal spirit. Both are, however, in the true style of Horace.
VII. Descriptive poetry embraces a very ample scope. Description, indeed, enters into all poetry, whether heroic, didactic, or pastoral, and, under proper restraints, is the soul of all poetry whatever; but there are some forms with which it particularly consorts, such as elegy and lyric. I am, however, at present to treat of poems professedly descriptive, which definition excludes all those that can be arranged under any of the other classes.
Descriptive poetry may be classed under two divisions.... That which offers to our view a delineation of nature, or of natural scenery; and that which describes the manners, sentiments, and characters of men. That the first kind has little in itself engaging is evident, since all descriptive poets are obliged to bring sentiment to their-aid to enliven what would otherwise infallibly tire; and since it is a rule universally established among critics, that descriptions should be short. Man is a creature that is always looking to himself, and when a writer wanders far from this favourite theme, he will be little read. Of particular scenes I aver it is impossible in words to draw a picture by which they can be known. Yet general description, in the hands of a master, has its charms, particularly when combined with what interests the human heart.
The ancients seem to have had no poems which could be exclusively termed descriptive. Those of Moschus, Bion, and the other minor poets of Greece, which might be forced into this class, are called Idylliums, and have generally some other subject for a ground-work. The moderns have excelled in this department. For though it is extremely difficult to make a merely descriptive poem interesting, the difficulty of the achievement is a high commendation to the poet who succeeds. Of those poems which describe natural scenery, Denham's Cooper's Hill, Pope's Windsor Forest, and Roscoe's Mount Pleasant, are the best. I add the latter, though it is not so much known as it deserves; but the name of the author has been justly celebrated since its publication, and it is, in my opinion, inferior to neither of the others. Cooper's Hill Dr. Johnson regards as an original work, and calls Denham “the father of a species of composition that may be denominated local poetry." Yet the very limited popularity of this poem at present is an argument against this species of poetry; and I believe Pope's “Windsor Forest" (notwithstanding his magic wand, which turned almost every thing to gold, and the curiosa felicitas, in which he was not exceeded by Horace) is less read than any of his poems, the “ Temple of Fame" excepted, which may also be regarded in some measure as a descriptive poem.
Mr. Roscoe's “ Mount Pleasant” was written at a very early age, and ought not therefore to be subjected to all the severities of criticism. As it is less known than the others, I shall select a few specimens from it
, which I think will not have a tendency to lessen the author's well-earned reputation. If I might add a tribute of early friendship to this truly amiable man, I would do it in the words of Perseus....
“ Tecum etenim longos memini consumere soles,
“Long summer days thy precepts I rehearse ;
The introduction is beautiful, but I have not room for all the beauties of this poem. I shall therefore at present only claim your attention to the author's account of the rise of commerce in the local prospect that lay before him....
“Far as the eye can trace the prospect round,
Along his side a few small cots were spread,
Ply round the shores, nor tempt the dangerous main, “ But seek ere night the friendly port again.
“ Now o'er the wondering world her name resounds, “ From northern climes, to India's distant bounds. “...Where-e'er his shores the broad Atlantić laves; “ Where-e'er the Baltic rolls his wintry waves ; " Where-e'er the honour'd flood extends his tide, “ That clasps Sicilia like a favour'd bride ; “ Whose waves in ages past so oft have bore ~ The storm of battle on the Punic shore ; “ Have wash'd the banks of Greece's learned bow'rs, “ And view'd at distance Rome's imperial tow’rs ; " In every clime her prosperous fleets are known, “ She makes the wealth of every clime her own.'
The history of commerce is connected with the preceding subject.
“ When commerce, yet an infant, rais'd her head,
An open welcome met the stranger crew ;
“ Now, more destructive than a blighting storm,
Grasps the red sword, and whirls the flaming brand :
A more pleasing subject, the charitable institutions of Liverpool and its vicinity, is perhaps still more pleasingly illustrated....
Sweep the light strings, and louder swell the lyre ! “ Far nobler themes a nobler song require..... “ The heav'n born virtues come,....a lovely train ; " They prompt the verse,....be theirs the votive strain. " .... Not those that seek in lonely shades to dwell, “ The selfish inmates of the hermit's cell ;